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Presentation delivered at MeCCSA 2013 by Dr. Vera Slavtcheva-Petkova, highlighting findings of a paper co-authored with Dr. Monica Bulger and Dr. Victoria Nash of the Oxford Internet Institute
Abstract: Moral panics about the Internet’s “harmful effects” have been ongoing in current years, recently exacerbated by a UK parliamentary inquiry into online child protection. Is there scientific evidence supporting these fears? Does the Internet harm children and especially their health? This paper will present the findings from a narrative review of more than 300 journal articles discussing the scale and scope of online harms that young people experience. We will first present the three main types of harms identified in the literature: health-related harms, sex-related harms and cyber-bullying. Then the paper will focus in more detail on the evidence about health-related harms incurred as a result of online risks. We not only identify the kinds of health harms discussed in the literature – mainly related to pro-eating disorder websites, self-injury websites and problematic Internet use – but we also investigate whether and how the researchers operationalize harm. We also scrutinize the research methods used in the studies, which tend to differ significantly among the disciplines studied.